There are some things you and your child should know before they fly alone. The rules the airline has is a good place to start, and the precautions you can take is a good place to end. So, start by contacting the airline and finding out what their policy is for unaccompanied minors. Then go over that policy with your child. They should know things like they will be boarded first, and they are expected to ask the flight attendant if they need anything. They are to wait in the airplane until the other passengers de-board so that a flight attendant can help them de-board and find where they need to be. Each airline is different; check with your booking agent to see what they say you need to know.
The following are some precautions you can take to help ensure your child’s safety when they fly alone:
First and foremost, make sure your child has a copy of his itinerary and knows where he’s supposed to be going and who is picking him up. It is also important to make sure they know that they may have some stops along the way, and where those stops are going to be. You do not want to run into a Home Alone type problem where they get on the wrong plane, and it does happen. Make sure your child knows what city they are flying into, and make sure they know to listen to the pilot when he makes his announcements, and make sure they speak up if they are on the wrong plane so that someone can help them. Even your seven-year-old should be able to speak up if he knows he’s supposed to be going to New York and the pilot says they are heading to Florida.
Make sure your child has a working cell phone so they can call you if there is a problem. Also, be sure to program numbers into the phone for them to reach you, a few backup numbers for if you do not answer, and of course the numbers for the person who is to pick them up. Make sure they know how to use the phone, and that they are comfortable with it, and know what is expected of them, such as that they call you right away if they get lost or stranded.
You can also make the flight better, and help your child to have fewer distractions which can lead to problems by packing food and entertainment in a carry-on pack. If you give them food to snack on they won’t miss their flight because they are standing in a long McDonald’s airport line. If you give them entertainment, they won’t fill their time talking to strangers about things they should not.
Request a “gate pass” to go through security with your kids and wait with them until they board. Then stay at the gate until the plane takes off so that you know for certainty that your child did not de-board, and that the plane did not get delayed. Do not just wait until the plane is on the runway, wait until it takes off. If there is bad weather, a mechanical problem, etc. your child’s plane could return to the gate.
There are plenty of things you can do, but the best thing to do to help your child when they are flying alone is to talk to them about the dangers, and about what you want them to do in specific situations. For example, make sure they know what to do if a stranger approaches them and asks them to watch their luggage. Make sure they know what to do if their flight is delayed or canceled. The more you plan, the easier it will be and the more sure you can be that they will arrive safely at their destination.